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While We Still Have Time

In spite of the grimness of the times in which we live, there is still hope. If you feel, like I do, that the usual discourse about matters of critical concern tends to be superficial, misguided, and false, then you might find some solace and inspiration here. I will try to offer insight and a holistic perspective on events and issues, and hopefully serve as a catalyst for raising the level of dialogue on this planet.

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Location: Madison, Wisconsin, United States

I was born in 1945, shortly before atom bombs were dropped on Japan. I served in the U.S. Army from 1968 to 1971. I earned master's degrees in Economics and Educational Psychology, and certificates in Web Page Design and as a Teacher of English as a Second Language. I followed an Indian guru for eight years, which immersed me in meditative practices and an attitude of reaching a higher level of being. A blog post listing the meditative practices I have pursued can be seen here.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Gun Fanaticism 101

A copy of American Rifleman, the magazine of the National Rifle Association, came my way recently, and I thumbed through it to see what might be interesting. There is much. The magazine, like the organization, is a combination of  surreality, theater of the absurd and parallel universe. Gun extremists are a breed apart. I have written in the past about gun-nuttery, and don't have a lot to add, except to note that there was another mass shooting, this time in a theater in Lafayette, Louisiana. The shooter this time appears to have been an angry "right wing" gun nut, as well as a religious nut who hated women.

The best way to get a sense of the surreality of the NRA and its magazine is to see some scans I made of selected pages. My favorite is the "Chuck Norris Tribute Pistol." Chuck Norris is a karate-chopping movie and TV star, or was. He is now 75 years old, and of late has busied himself in "right wing" politics. And gun advocacy. He advocates that you buy his tribute pistol. It is a fancied-up .45 Automatic, with gold and nickel plating, engraved likenesses of Chuck Norris, and a trite quote: "To accomplish great things, we must not only act, but also dream; not only plan, but also believe." The price for such engraved words of wisdom is a mere $1995.

My dad had a .45 Automatic, a souvenir from his service in World War II. It is a fearsome weapon, known as "the man-stopper" for its effectiveness in close combat when an enemy soldier is running towards one. It would certainly appeal to masculinity-deficient males, especially those who wish to be like karate champion "true American" Chuck Norris. My dad traded his .45 to someone for a .22 Automatic, which was more suitable for target practice.

The magazine is filled with advertising for all kinds of guns - big, small, rifles, pistols, with scope and without - and various items of shooting paraphernalia.The NRA even offers its own gun, a 24-karat gold plated Ruger Blackhawk .44 Magnum six shot revolver. It has inscriptions - "Molon Labe" and "The Second Amendment Protects the Rest." Molon Labe is inscribed in the original Greek lettering, and means "Come and take it," a dare to anyone who would attempt to seize the possessor's beloved gun, or guns.

No price is mentioned for the NRA Revolver, so I looked on the website listed, AmericanLegacyFirearms.com. They are on sale for $2495, a bit less than I expected. Sales apparently aren't as hot for the item as was planned.  The Chuck Norris Tribute Pistol is likely within the budget most gun zealots.

Every brave defender of his right to keep and bear arms needs a proper holster to hold his favorite gun. Blackhawk offers one that promotes "Life, liberty and the pursuit of any maggot who threatens them." Because, as we all know, there is a maggot under every rock threatening life and liberty. The model in the photo is of a guy in full battle regalia, ready for a maggot attack. In pursuing any maggot, the well-armed defender, or exterminator, apparently needs to have his gun mounted on his chest for quick draw. Plenty of spare magazines are needed too, since maggots rarely threaten life and liberty by themselves. Or maybe they're hard to hit. You can't make this stuff up.

Having a gun with ammo and shooting paraphernalia isn't enough, though. How about some cigars? American Rifleman has a deal too good to pass up. Eight cigars for $10. Not just any old cigars either. You get a first-class premium cigar sampler - eight different cigars to correct any shooter's phallic deficiencies. If you get $100 dollars worth you could puff away while shooting for a whole season, and give some to friends. Maybe I'm a bit less-than-manly, but I have always found the smell of cigar smoke to be revolting, and people who smoke them not so appealing either. The appeal, I suspect, is symbolic, a projection of sexual power. The obvious question, of course, is why one would need such a symbol.

After a day of defiant shooting a man needs to relax. Returning to his lair, he might surround himself with hunting trophies, stuffed animals, maybe a tiger-skin pelt or bear rug, (or rabbit and squirrel pelts for lower-budget hunters), and a target or two on the wall. To complete the picture, the "John Wayne Cold-Cast Bronze Masterpiece Sculpture" would be a perfect addition to the decor. It has leather reins to give it "realism." And, it's only $149.95. John Wayne, movie star, played a long list of tough guys, from war heroes to cowboys to police detectives. He also was a "Conservative," and believed in "white" supremacy.

If you have any money left after all your gun purchases, NRA membership dues, trips to the shooting range and cigars, don't forget to remember the NRA in your will. Not some half-baked will, but a well-crafted will - the wellness, obviously dependent on how much is left to the NRA. With more money, specifically more of YOUR money, the National Rifle Association can secure the Second Amendment rights of future generations in perpetuity. And, in so doing, also secure the wealth of NRA executives. This really isn't any different that what other organizations do, from environmental groups to hunger relief to refugee aid. I wonder how many people actually leave part or all of their estates to a gun zealotry organization.

Another way of leaving a legacy is to send a teenager to the Ronald Reagan Ranch High School Conference. There the young "Conservative" can be indoctrinated into the fundamentals of the faith. Ronald Reagan is something of a patron saint of "Conservatives." Like John Wayne, he was a movie actor, and when his acting career ended he served a couple of terms as governor of California, and beginning in 1981, eight years as President of the United States.

He was a terrible president, engaging in union-busting, a phony invasion, and secretly funding a terrorist group.  Every year at the conference there are famous "Conservative" speakers. Former Virginia senator George Allen, of  "macaca" fame, spoke at this year's event. Also a former football coach. It only cost $175 per student, so if you couldn't afford the Chuck Norris pistol or the NRA revolver you could sponsor the future of "America." Except it is too late. The event happened in June. I'm sure they had plenty of indoctrinees.

For the reader who might be confused about why he should join the National Rifle Association, there are little reminders posted throughout the magazine, each one highlighting a reason. Freedom, family, community, country and your future are all taken care of just by joining the NRA. The magazine is for members, so presumably those who receive it already know why they are members. It may be the case that for one reason or other people let their memberships lapse, so keeping the dues coming in is a top priority.

In a crescendo of sorts, the American Rifleman celebrated the national meeting(s?) and exhibits that were held in, of all places, Nashville, in April. Featured personages included "Conservative" comedian Jeff Foxworthy and county-western performer Alan Jackson, who may or may not be a "Conservative," but presumably is a gun advocate. As part of the NRA's Institute for Legislative Action Leadership Forum, the top "Republican" candidates for president gave speeches. Among them were Donald Trump and Wisconsin's governor Scott Walker.

The meeting (or meetings) sounded the drum beat of paranoia about "the government" taking everyone's guns. The magazine article put it this way:  "The message was simple: Responsible gun owners don't want more government limitations on our right to bear arms, and we need pro-gun political leadership."

The NRA's outgoing president James W. Porter II (not Junior) gave an outgoing speech, part of which is quoted in the article: "When it comes to those elitists looking down their noses and telling us how to live, it's time they got the message loud and clear. You elitists live however you want. But when it comes to us, get your hands off our freedom and leave us the hell alone."

The exhibits, likely guns and gun paraphernalia, were from over 550 companies. I suppose that means 551 companies, but over 550 sounds more expansive. There were seminars covering, surprise, surprise, firearms, but also preparing wild game. And, curiously, the Falklands War.  It isn't clear why a gun ownership organization would find the Falklands War worthy of a seminar. It might have something to do with the opposing sides: "Great Britain" and "Argentina." One side represents the Anglo-Saxon or whatever pure roots of "America," while the other represents people south of the border.  Kind of like the mythical "Aryans" that Hitler fantasized were the "true Germans."

The NRA didn't used to be a gun nut organization. It started out as a group to promote marksmanship in 1871. In the mid-1970s the NRA changed emphasis, with Second Amendment rights being the new priority. For the unaware, the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution states states that "A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed."

The meaning of the amendment is a bit ambiguous, with gun rights advocates stressing the right to keep and bear arms, while the advocates of limits to those rights stress the well regulated militia aspect. And n'er the twain shall meet, it seems.

'Counting coup' on the NRAThere was a time in my life when I was a gun enthusiast. It wasn't an enthusiasm for gun ownership or rights, but of shooting guns. I learned to shoot a rifle in Boy Scout camp, and even have an NRA marksmanship certificate for my efforts. I didn't do much rifle shooting until I went into the Army, and even then it was just in basic training. where I earned a sharpshooter medal for marksmanship.

I grew up on hunting, and used mainly shotguns. It's a different kind of shooting than rifle shooting, typically at moving targets (birds). You don't "aim" a shotgun, but point it at the moving target, moving as the animal moves. I got pretty good at it, even worked at a trap and skeet range for a while. I gave it up as an adult when I became a vegetarian and moved into an ashram. I read a quote around that time that was attributed to Gandhi that said a gun changes a house and its occupant. I found it to be true, but I prefer the converse - not having a gun changes the house and its occupant.

In a post to this blog nine years ago I wrote about the NRA, and about some early gun rights zealots, one of whom became threatening to the owner of the trap and skeet range one night - over trap shooting championship points, so almighty important. The guy turned out to have been a wife-beater, and when she left him he shot himself, ending his life. No more gun rights for him.

So now we have a new gun rights enthusiast, who was so enthusiastic about his rights that he shot up a movie theater, killing two people, Mayci Breaux and Jillian Johnson, and wounding nine others. Much is said about the shooter being "mentally ill." While it seems painfully obvious the guy wasn't "normal" mentally, he wasn't much different from the NRA gun nuts. The difference is of degree, not kind. It is safe to say that he was influenced by NRA noise about gun rights, noise which didn't exist before about 1975.

In today's Salon, writer Sean Illing argues that the Second Amendment must go. He also despairs that anything will be done. I'm not so pessimistic. There was a time before NRA gun fanaticism. There will be a time after. Power today is not power tomorrow.

I believe the NRA is going to see a mass exodus. It's a cult. I know about cults. I was in one. Two if you count Catholicism. The NRA is a cult. The pattern, or gestalt that emerges from its magazine American Rifleman reveals its cultic nature: paranoia, mythology and ritual, symbolic attire, talismanic artifacts, revered heroes, a sense of embattlement, accursed enemies (i.e., Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton). Here are some more characteristics of cults.

The difference with the NRA cult is that is that its focus is on the shooting of other people. In response to the Sandy Hook shooting deaths of 23 children, the NRA's executive vice president Wayne LaPierre said "The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun."  It almost goes without saying that if your meditation is on killing other people, you are more likely to do so. Lafayette shooter John Houser was a gun "enthusiast" who meditated on killing other people. Dylann Roof, the Charleston shooter, also meditated on killing other people. Adam Lanza, the Sandy Hook shooter, meditated on killing people. All the notorious mass killers meditated on killing other people.

Change is in the air. Obama is finally doing some things that are worthwhile, like making peace with "Iran" and "Cuba." The "Republicans" are apoplectic. Their star is fading. Since 1980 they have been ascending, using paranoia, scapegoating, lying, hysteria and criminality to seize power. The result is what we now have - near chaos, hateful people shooting at random and almost random. There are now 16 "Republican" candidates for president. They ALL are part of the malaise in which we find ourselves. They ALL are already bad for the country, and if one of them is elected - or appointed, as in 2000 - it will be a disaster.

I don't believe it will happen. Their time has passed. Their sugar daddy, or at least one of them - the NRA - is headed for decline. The Polar ice caps are melting. The economy is unsustainable. We need solutions, not grandstanding. Think positive. Or positively, for the grammarians among us.

I wrote about gun-related topics in other posts here, here, here and here.

Frontline offered this report about the NRA and its influence. 

Here's a song. Here's another.  And another. And this, for the pursuers of maggots. When confronted by a pursuer of maggots, this song might help.

A writer in Slate explores the possible connection between the attitude of the Lafayette shooter's attitude towards women and the movie he chose for his shooting spree. The Washington Post delves into his hatred of women in this article.

Here's a story about the victims of the Lafayette shooting.

On a slightly different topic, there is another way to recall Wisconsin's crony capitalist governor. 


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